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A No Mistakes Philosophy...On And Off The Tile.

A No Mistakes Philosophy...On And Off The Tile.

Molly writes...

When someone asks me about the Zentangle Method, a few things come to mind. I usually talk about how it is a step by step approach to pattern drawing and then, depending on who I am talking to or what the circumstances are, I talk about some of the philosophy behind the method. Practicing Zentangle is the best way to understand these philosophies. I think every artist that practices Zentangle brings their own interpretation to its definition and that adds to the overall meaning. One of the most valuable and important aspects of the Zentangle philosophy for me is the “No Mistakes” philosophy. It took me years to understand fully what that meant for my practice. When we say there are no mistake in Zentangle, it is not intended to mean that there will never be an unintended stroke, spill, rip or a just plan “ugh”. What we mean is that when it does happen our reaction is not to react with disappointment, anger, or discouragement but rather to embrace it and see it as an opportunity.

This is a major shift in perspective that requires courage and trust. Once you trust and welcome that every stroke on your tile has purpose, beauty, and potential, you start to see your work differently. This can be hard at first. How can you say that what clearly appears to be a mess as potential beauty?

Well, sometimes, it takes time away from the work, sometimes it takes creative ideas for change and sometimes it takes a decision to go in a new direction. Once you open up your mind to this viewpoint you will also notice a new creative flow state. A creative flow state can only be achieved if there is nothing in its way. When an artist gets stuck on perfection, distracted by things that come out not as expected or if one places expectations on themselves that are so specific, you narrow down your success of finding a flow state in your creative process.

However, when you approach your work with openness and welcome all parts of your creative process, you start to understand their purpose and role in the bigger picture. If you believe that each stroke of your pen or mark of your pencil plays a role in all the marks that follow you start to see them differently. You see opportunity and potential. You learn to trust the creative process and embrace the humanness that makes it special. You can start to embrace how this new perspective allows you to focus on the present and then pushes you forward to the next step. Once you implement the “No Mistakes” philosophy in your artistic process you might start to see and feel it trickling into other parts of your life.

Today, we find ourselves in days of “uncertainty”. While this might be true, and this might be part of our reality, what if we took this opportunity to focus on some of the beautiful things that are emerging and all that we are grateful for. I, for one have found gratitude in the extra time at home. I have particularly enjoyed the extra snuggles with my children, discovering a new trail in the woods, spending extra time around the dinner table, working on a jigsaw puzzle, watching a movie, and drawing. I am also finding gratitude in just stopping to take a huge metaphorical breath. Sometimes the world seems to be moving so quickly, and there is so much focus on what is next that we forget to focus on where we are. These past few days, I have appreciated not having any plans. I believe and know that we will eventually return to our busy lives, but as for today I am feeling grateful for this opportunity to rest and recharge. I am trying to take note of how powerful this feeling is. I am feeling grateful for this opportunity to just take a break from it all … and knowing that I am not alone doing it. This experience will change a lot of things for a lot of people, and although there will be difficulties and challenges, there will no doubt will be beautiful things too. There will be discovery, renewal, and awesomeness …. You just have to look for it.



Molly Hollibaugh


  • Sometimes I get tp hear exactly the right thing that I need to hear at exactly the right time. Your blog of,”No Mistakes” is just such a message for me now. Thank you.

    Leslie Hancock on

  • Wow, reading this made me cry, for I am reminded of the 1st voice guided lesson I had with you at CZT #30. I accidentally made a tripoly snowflake and I was like in my thoughts “no that’s not what I wanted” and your mom was walking by and said so kindly “elegant” and then in my mind I was like “I love snow” so this winter I have designed my snow flake step outs. Then most recently I was drawing tripoly again, circular, and low and behold I showed my daughter and she said that looks like a virus and wouldn’t you know I drew COVID 19 and it looked elegant and it was in splendid moonlight colors! Thank you for showing us beauty in all and beauty for all. Wishing you safety and happiness

    Anita Jones CZT#30 on

  • Change perspective is always a good idea… in good time and in bad time too.
    I really think mistakes are opportunities to change something new or unexpected.
    Now we have to change perspective and make something unexpected.
    Thank you. Your message is so reassuring.

    Laura RD CZTEu1 on

  • Hello Molly. Thank you for such a great story. For me Zentangle is a metaphor for life. I use the “no mistakes” expression very often. I am thinking of you in these times of change that hopefully will bring good things to all of us. I meditate for everybody’s health and safety, all over the world. Big (safe) hug to all of you in the Zentangle world from Belgium.


  • Thank you for your words Molly. The “no-misstakes” philosophy is the most important thing to me about Zentangle method. It has opened so many new doors not only when I draw my daily tiles but also in the way I approach the rest of my art! I am grateful for that! It is a long way to go but it is worth it!

    Anita Aspfors Westin on

  • Yes indeed, Molly! I have really appreciated all the thoughtful emails from the Zentangle family during this challenging time. This is the first time I have posted a reply on your blog, but I felt it was timely because your message of finding opportunites out of challenges has been ringing true for me in many ways. I am an O.T. at the Milwaukee VA (&CZT#33!) One of my roles is to provide services to vets. in our residential substance abuse rehab. program. One of our vets. has to be quarantined to his room for 14 days. Since he learned Zentangle in the past, I have been supplying him with tools so he can tangle away the loneliness and anxiety. He has appreciated it & has been doing amazing work! It puts a smile on my face when I see one of his emails sharing his latest tile, and it helps him stay connected to some extent. Also, due to program-wide changes to comply with the precautions,some time opened up in my schedule & I was able to offer a Zentangle class to 6 veterans yesterday. 5 of them had never heard of Zentangle before, but all of them reported strong reductions in distress following the class, having completed “distress thermometer” self-rating forms before & after the class. I have seen this effect time & time again when we have done classes with our vets., but it is even more meaningful at a time like this! So, thank you so much, once again, for all you do. Like so many others who have posted here, I am very grateful to have Zentangle. (P.S. loved your voice guided tangle & seeing all the results! Looking forward to doing another with all of you.)

    Julie Till on

  • So much love for you and this beautiful message, Molly. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and grace. And what a gift to have Zentangle to remind us to be still and patient, to be an artistic channel, and enjoy social distancing at its finest. There is much to be grateful for. ❤️

    Cindy K on

  • Thank you!

    Today I was greeted by a beautiful male cardinal outside my window while having my morning coffee. It was such a delightful sight ; a subtle reminder of spring. While this has been an unsettling time it has shown me how to have gratitude for the simple magnificence of each breath. Thank you once again.

    Jennifer on

  • Just one word: Thank you Molly!!!

    MatheussenRia on

  • Thank you, Molly, for your beautiful and very encouraging missive. So much food for thought and soul.

    Very much needed now and for always. Joanne on March 26, 2000

    Joanne Erhartic on

  • Thank you for your eloquent words. As an early adopter of the Zentangle Method, I can always use a reminder of this foundational precept.

    Bette Abdu on

  • Enjoyed these thoughts, Molly. I cringe when I see posts from new tanglers that focus on what they “can’t” do or what there tile “isn’t enough of”. What they view as deficiencies are a fundamental part of a larger process. Many times I have tangled a Huggins tile almost to the end, only to reverse one of those final curves – augghhh! Very quickly, it gets a Bales Bailout and morphs into something else. The process is still complete; the perception is what needs to change. Tangle on!

    Jenny Perruzzi on

  • Your third paragraph said it all for me. Rereading this before I paint I believe is going to make a big difference in my paintings. You explained the “no mistakes” so it finally clicked with me. Thankyou and stay healthy

    Cynthia on

  • Beautifully said, Molly! This pandemic highlights all that I am very grateful for, one of which is to have discovered Zentangle. Thank you so much for all that you, and the world wide Zentangle community are doing to help us through this moment in history.

    Maureen Stott on

  • As always, thanks Molly. Sending a cyber hug to you and all your family. This is so beautifully written.

    Devin on

  • So well stated Mollie! Yes, we need to take time to treasure time home well & safe with Family but also delve into our creative journey. Steep learning curve not only for more new, challenging art that were are doing because we have the time but also for navigating the many Apps and sites for social media to get our message across but also learn new things! The World is already changing and there is more to come!

    Heather Toswell on

  • Oh Molly, this is so very well stated. I’ve been doing quite a lot of tangling during this challenging time and I find that worries and concerns have given me more ‘oopsies’ than normal. Whenever they arise, it reminds me to stop, breathe and step back to get a different perspective. I am so very grateful for having this Method in my life as it has truly been a balm for my soul and kept me (somewhat) sane. Blessings and metta to you and the entire Zentangle family! Thank you and Namasté 🥰🙏🏻

    LovelyRita on

  • Thank you for your profound words. The more time goes by with the distancing, I find the ‘opportunities’ that I am being given – one being. time And that needs to be added to my’ tool box’. I believe that when some normalcy returns we will all realize that we have changed, slowed down, and that is a good thing!

    Carolyn on

  • Molly, just this morning my iCalendar sent me a reminder about our 1440 Zentangle retreat scheduled this weekend that like many other plans is now postponed. A sadness touched me but I reminded myself of all the love that is pouring out of people online, a sharing of our art that has really amazed me. My Calendar is overflowing with offerings and my heart is too! Thank you so much for reaching out. We will meet again when the time is right.

    Deb (DrKarmaCZT) on

  • The ‘No Mistakes’ is something that I really try to get my students to buy into. Embracing just this one part of Zentangle can free up a lot of those ‘worry’ thoughts that spin around in your head. I’m so grateful that you and your family have given us the gift of Zentangle, not only as an art form that everyone can enjoy, but also because it helps us to articulate and share such valuable life lessons in a way that anyone can understand.

    Keep it up sister!

    Kim Kohler on

  • I have tried now for some time to adhere to WMHB as my guide.* I finally decided that trying to redo my life is a waste of time and effort, Molly, you are fortunate to have decided, at your age, and with Zentangle, to have come to a realization that life is a constant discovery, even when we are sure we know it all.

    (*what might have been)

    Naomi Frenkel on

  • Many of my acquaintances could find value in this mindset. This philosophy trickles through much more than Zentangle. The original proverb could have been -when given lemons, make lemonade! It changes my perspective when something doesn’t come out the way I want it to, I can now look at it and say, Ok, what can I do to make it useful? I do this not only when tangling, but also while cooking, sewing, baking, etc. ALL IS GOOD!💜

    LaJuania Dorman on

  • I cannot hear this too often Molly. Thank you for your care and generosity!

    Kathy on

  • Thanks for such lovely comments, Molly! I really like the way you’ve created opportunity out of challenge. That is certainly what seems best for us all, especially during this “down time”. I am not used to having an empty calendar stretching out for an unknown amount of time AND there are so many possibilities that come with that 😄 I hope you all are staying healthy one stroke (day) at a time!!

    Wendy on

  • Thank you Molly… I forget that so easily in my quest to achieve in life. Bless you dear one!

    Susan Talbot on

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